Theology of the Body Thursday #19: A Blow to the “Sexual Revolution”

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There is no such thing as a “sex drive.”

Let me repeat: There is no such thing as a “sex drive.”

A behavioral scientist, Emily Nagoski, who has done extensive research on women and sex dropped this bombshell a couple weeks ago. She explains that “a drive is a motivational system to deal with life-or-death issues.” Hunger is a drive, being too hot or too cold is a drive, sex can’t be a drive for two reasons: 1) Sex isn’t needed for the survival of the organism and 2) the desire for sex doesn’t always happen spontaneously.

She makes the argument that people who don’t experience “spontaneous desire” aren’t broken. She says that most men experience “spontaneous desire” while most women do not. Since, for far too long, men’s experiences have been seen as the norm, women who don’t experience it often think they need a pill to fix it.

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This taking the white male as the norm has been a huge problem in medical research that is slowly but surely getting fixed.

She calls for a reclaiming of what she calls “responsive desire.” It is the desire for sex triggered by arousal. She explains it thus:

But there is another way of experiencing desire which is also healthy and normal, called “responsive desire”, where your interest only emerges in response to arousal. So, your partner comes over and starts kissing your neck and you’re like, “oh, right, sex, that’s a good idea”. [Source]

While she acknowledges that “spontaneous desire” is fun, she explains that it is not necessary for pleasure or fulfillment. I think she could have learned that by asking anyone who has used NFP to postpone pregnancy, but anyway….

What does this have to do with the “sexual revolution”? It was only in the 1970s that people started to argue that we had a sex drive. A drive, in turn, quickly becomes a need and then a right. Now in 2015, it is taken for granted that sex is a right. I’ve had plenty of arguments with my peers about this. Now, we who argue that sex is not a right have another point to use.

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You can bet your bottom that I will be reviewing Nagoski’s book, Come as You Are. There will be plenty of points to ponder. Some will reaffirm my worldview, some will definitely challenge it. I’m so looking forward to this book.

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A Victory for Moms (and the Pro-Life Movement) at the Supreme Court

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On March 25th, the Supreme Court decided 6-3 in favor of motherhood!

Peggy Young was a pregnant woman. Her doctor put a limit on how much she could lift toward the end of her pregnancy. Her employer, UPS, refused to reassign her to lighter duty and put her on unpaid leave. To add insult to injury, she lost her insurance coverage when she was put on leave. Needless to say, she left UPS to work elsewhere but she rightfully took her former employer to court.

This case made it’s way up to the Supreme Court where she got a partial but significant victory. The court ruled that she could make her case again to a lower court. The lower court had previously ruled that UPS’s decisions were not discriminatory. The Supreme Court disagreed with the lower court and is giving the lower court another chance to look at the case.

This is not only a victory for moms, but it is a victory for the pro-life movement. This was one of those all too rare cases in which both pro-life and pro-choice organizations signed the amicus brief in support of Young. This shows where the common ground is located and where we can begin to heal our country. Hopefully, this case will lead to dialogue rather than more screaming.

I've said it before, I say it again: Hug someone you don't agree with today!

I’ve said it before, I say it again: Hug someone you don’t agree with today!

Theology of the Body Thursday #18: RFRA Out-of-context

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There has been tons of debate and anger over the last couple weeks about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In defense of this law, some people are trying once again to defend the Church’s teachings regarding homosexuality outside of the context of the overall Catholic view of sex.

In 1971, a Catholic laywoman coined the term “seamless garment” to describe the Catholic defense of life from womb to tomb. I would like to adopt this phrase in regards to our teachings on sex and sexuality. No part of our teachings on sex make any sense outside of the context of the whole. The Catholic defense of sex needs also to be seen in terms of a “seamless garment.”

The Catholic Church is against:

  • artificial contraception
  • abortion
  • homosexual behavior
  • pornography
  • prostitution
  • sexual abuse and rape

 

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Gandhi wasn’t Catholic.

 

All because the Catholic Church is for love that is:

  • free
  • faithful
  • fruitful
  • total

We all want a lover that loves us freely, that is faithful to us and that gives of themselves totally and accepts us totally. We all want to make our mark on the world. Anyone who has experienced anything like love knows that love cannot keep to itself, it has to spill out into the world to bear fruit. All of these things are timeless desires and experiences of humanity. This definition of love makes sense regardless of where and when you speak these truths. These aspects of love don’t even depend on the Bible or a belief in God in order to ring true.  They are fundamental to human nature.

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FDR wasn’t Catholic either.

 

The Church recognizes that anything, I mean anything, that undermines any of the above four aspects of love is beneath our dignity as God’s children and is, frankly, a sin.

In explaining the Gospel, we need to talk more about what the Church is for rather than what the Church is against. We also need to stop taking the hard teachings out-of-context. Many of these teachings are hard to digest and serving them without the overall sweetness of the Gospel or the reality of human experience makes them completely inedible for many people.

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5 Ways to Celebrate the Anniversary of Evangelium Vitae

Twenty years ago today, St. Pope John Paul II published one of his best known encyclicals, Evangelium Vitae (or “Gospel of Life”). In it, he unflinchingly defended the dignity of human life particularly against the evils of abortion and euthanasia, although those were far from the only evils he addressed.

In Rome, they are making this into quite a big deal. Yesterday, the Pontifical Council for the Family organized prayer vigils all over the world. There were special masses and special prayers, paying particular attention to Mary, as the intercessor in the cause for Life.

If you, like me, missed all of the hubbub yesterday, do not fear. Here are my suggestions on how to celebrate today:

Read the Encyclical

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At 90 pages, it isn’t the shortest encyclical, nor is it the longest. It isn’t the most intellectually dense either, so don’t feel like you have to be some sort of genius to get it. And no one says you have to finish it today, but if you are a pro-life Catholic, I highly recommend that you pick it up.

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Donate your time, talent or treasure to a pro-life cause

Ideas:

  • Help your nearest crisis pregnancy center. Just google “crisis pregnancy center” to find one or check out Lifecall.org.
  • On the other end of the life-cycle, help your nearest hospice or other organization that helps people facing life-threatening illnesses (only major danger is donating money to groups that promote embryonic stem-cell research, the American Life League keeps track of stuff like that here).
  • Help with a soup kitchen, food pantry, or homeless shelter.
  • Just be wherever there is suffering and do what you can to help alleviate it and give dignity to those who are victims.

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Pray the rosary

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The Rosary was John Paul II’s favorite prayer. His entire life, he has a major devotion to our Lady. You see even in the end of his encyclicals such as the one celebrated today as you will see below.

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Go to Eucharistic Adoration

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If that image doesn’t inspire you to go, I don’t know what will. To find a chapel, look here although I’m not sure how up-to-date their info is. They would be a good place to start and then double-check the info you find there.

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Pray to Mary using the Prayer found at the end of the Encyclical

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I don’t know who is the artist behind this work. Please let me know if you know so I can attribute it correctly!

O Mary,
bright dawn of the new world,
Mother of the living,
to you do we entrust the cause of life
Look down, O Mother,
upon the vast numbers
of babies not allowed to be born,
of the poor whose lives are made difficult,
of men and women
who are victims of brutal violence,
of the elderly and the sick killed
by indifference or out of misguided mercy.

Grant that all who believe in your Son
may proclaim the Gospel of life
with honesty and love
to the people of our time.

Obtain for them the grace
to accept that Gospel
as a gift ever new,
the joy of celebrating it with gratitude
throughout their lives
and the courage to bear witness to it
resolutely, in order to build,
together with all people of good will,
the civilization of truth and love,
to the praise and glory of God,
the Creator and lover of life. – St. John Paul II

Theology of the Body Thursday #16: Dolce & Gabanna on Gay Adoption and Surrogacy

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This week fashion designers Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce came out against gay adoption and surrogacy. They are both gay men (they had been in a relationship for 23 years) and have previously spoken out against gay marriage. The backlash against them was swift and powerful with some very big names joining the boycott against the designers. What struck me, however, was how similar their views are to the views of the Catholic Church.

From AP

From AP

They are both Italian natives, I wonder if they were raised Catholic. I cannot find anything to either confirm nor dispute this theory, but if they were, their catechists should be proud and here’s why:

Dolce and Gabbana’s Comments Quotes from Catechism of the Catholic Church
“Procreation must be an act of love.” “A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment.”- CCC 2366
“…the family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.”

 

 

“The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life.” – CCC 2207
“We did not create the family. It is the icon of the Holy Family.” “The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.” – CCC 2205
“A child needs a mother and a father. I could not imagine my childhood without my mother. I also believe that it is cruel to take a baby away from its mother.” “A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The “supreme act of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,” and “the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.” – CCC 2378

Now, there is one big difference and it is a difference that I don’t think Dolce and Gabbana intended. Like any parent, Sir Elton John was offended by any implication that his children were somehow subhuman because of their birth from a surrogate. A child is not somehow less human because of the immoral mode of their conception. Every child is a gift regardless of the circumstances of their birth. As “Begotten not Made,” an article by Dr. John M. Haas on the USCCB website states:

Human beings bear the image and likeness of God. They are to be reverenced as sacred. Never are they to be used as a means to an end, not even to satisfy the deepest wishes of an infertile couple. Husbands and wives “make love,” they do not “make babies.” They give expression to their love for one another, and a child may or may not be engendered by that act of love. The marital act is not a manufacturing process, and children are not products. Like the Son of God himself, we are the kind of beings who are “begotten, not made” and, therefore, of equal status and dignity with our parents.

Given their words quoted above, I somehow doubt that Dolce and Gabbana meant to insult Elton John’s children, but may have meant to give Elton John and people like him something to think about.

Seriously, though, test tube babies are still babies.

Seriously, though, test tube babies are still babies and worthy of all the dignity and respect that is their due as human beings.

Theology of the Body Thursday #11: The Pill for Men?

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Recently I was reading America and the Pill (stay tuned for a review). Chapter 5 of the book talks in great detail about the attempts to create a birth control pill for men. Just this week, we have seen studies show that the Pill for women may be connected to a rare form of brain cancer. This book brought up some interesting reasons why a birth control pill for men has never been created and sold.

It is not a matter of science. As they were developing the pill for women, the scientists gave the pill to men in an insane asylum just for the heck of it. Before you judge, rules and regulations surrounding testing on humans were much looser in those days, everyone was doing stuff like that and no one thought it was wrong. Anyway, the tests helped scientists develop many ideas on how to make a pill for men with mixed success. Shortly after the pill was released for women, scientists predicted that a pill would be out for men within a few years. Well, it’s been 58 years and we’re still waiting.

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Why?

In past generations, pharmaceutical companies were worried that men wouldn’t take it. No point in committing man-power and money to a pill that won’t sell. Why wouldn’t they take it? Because they linked their fertility to their masculinity. Being sterile would make the man feel like less of a man.

This argument killed the pill for men, but it didn’t kill the pill for women and our fertility is an even bigger deal. Our entire bodies are in it. Our moods and physiology are completely wrapped up in our cycles. When new life is created, our bodies change to make room and to be prepared for motherhood once the child is born. How is it that men associated their masculinity with their fertility, but women had a much easier time throwing their fertility away?

This is not as much an issue in today’s generation. Today’s men do not associate their masculinity with their fertility. Some men in the survey conducted by the author in America and the Pill even welcomed such a change. (However, a recent article in The Guardian argues differently.)

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So, where is it? Male scientists didn’t and still don’t want to expose men to the risks. They don’t want to expose men to the side effects. All of the formulas that were tested in the beginning on men had the same side effects as the women’s pill. But when the women test subjects complained about side effects, they were written off and ignored. Scientists thought they were exaggerating or that the effects were psychosomatic. Silly women! When the male subjects complained, the offending formula was thrown out. God forbid we mess with a man’s sex drive!

Notice: Sex-related pills for men work to make them more virile while pills for women suppress our fertility and our sex drive.

I have to ask along with Matt Walsh, where is the feminist rage? It’s no surprise that women were written off in the 50s as being silly, but why are women being written off now when the pill that many use can give them brain cancer!

And why are we willing to give up our fertility so easily? Because we can die bringing life into the world? Because women are still given the bulk of the responsibility in child-rearing? Because, as the aforementioned Matt Walsh pointed out, we’ve been sold on the lie that our worth is based on our job? We have gone from one extreme of expecting all women to be mothers to the other expecting all women to be sterile.

Let’s find a balance. Let’s respect the woman who has 4 kids before she’s 30. Let’s respect the woman who runs a Fortune 500 company. Let’s respect the woman who, for no fault of her own, cannot have children.

LET’S

RESPECT

WOMEN.

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Theology of the Body Thursday #10: Take Me To Church

This post is mainly in response to the video. I know the song is from 2013, but it has been getting a lot of air-time on my favorite local pop station lately. In case you couldn’t make it through the video, here’s a summary: There is a gay couple. They hear a lynch mob coming and run for their lives. One of the men doesn’t make it.

I have two confessions to make:

1) I didn’t make it through the video. There is so much suffering and evil in the world, all you need to do is watch the news. I couldn’t watch this mob attack this man.

2) I struggle with the Church’s teachings about homosexuality. For me, the key words there are “struggle with.” I don’t reject them outright. The Church is my Mother and I want to listen to all she has to tell me. For me, the only way I can make sense of it is by putting it in the overall picture of the Church’s teachings on sexuality. Because of my struggle, I think I can explain the Church’s teachings in this area better than many hard-core believers. Let me illustrate:

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Bethanie vs. The Troll

 

Let me try to explain now it in 500 words or less:

As I say in the cartoon above, God made us male and female. Now, this wasn’t a coincidence, this wasn’t an accident. Our bodies aren’t a tomb or a tool. We are our bodies and our bodies are us. Our souls and our bodies are intrinsic to who we are. The resurrection of the body isn’t some sort of metaphorical hogwash, it’s true and literal. We’re all going to be kind of like some sort of holy, glorified, incorrupt zombies someday.

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Except any illness, injury, or disability she had will be healed. Her body will never die and she won’t be looking for brains. You know what? I’m just going to refer you to the Catechism: 988-1001

 

Our bodies reflect something intrinsic about the individual. For example, women’s bodies are made to create and nurture life. So women are naturally drawn to nuture. We are more naturally open-minded, able to embrace everyone. We are drawn to be protective and to provide for the least of those among us. Men, pardon my graphicness, are more direct. They are built to penetrate, so they are naturally less open to those who are different and more able to hone in on things. They also protect and provide for those they care about. While we are more able to receive, they are more able to give.

As our bodies are so intrinsic to our identities, in the Catholic worldview, God cannot be compartmentalized. Everything we do, what we eat, what we wear, where we live, what entertainment we consume, when, how and with whom we make love, all  of these and more have eternal consequences. Hence the so-called “culture wars” right now. Artificial contraception is just as “intrinsically disordered” as homosexual behavior from a Catholic perspective. We cannot condone behavior that we believe will lead other people to hell.

The chruch is not full of hypocrites

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We observe in nature that the sex act has two effects. One is the bonding of the couple. The other is to have children. Anything that interferes with either of those things is “intrinsically disordered” as to the nature of sex. That’s all there is to it. Gay people aren’t sick. Gay people aren’t any more sinners than the rest of us.  Homosexual behavior isn’t any worse than artificial contraception, premarital sex and porn.

The Church’s teachings on homosexuality cannot be seen outside of its overall teachings on sex and the body. (Arguably, the Church’s teachings on sexuality cannot be seen outside of the whole Gospel, but that is beyond the scope of this post.) If you take it out of context, like anything you take out of context, it gets greatly distorted. And people get hurt and others, like the idiot in the cartoon, die in ignorance. The body is good and sex is very good. The Church just does not want to see sex used as a tool for pleasure when it can be so much more.

Less than 500 words? Nailed it!

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